Solicitors believe the practising certificate (PC) fee is still too high, despite a cut of 17% approved by the Law Society council earlier this month, research by Chancery Lane has revealed.
Responding to a survey on the fee reduction for 2014-15, more than three quarters of the 210 solicitors who took part said it was not enough.
Only 18.5% described the new fee of £320 as “about right”, with a generous-minded 2.4% describing it as “too low”.
Two thirds of solicitors, 67%, said the society was “too reliant on the PC fee” as opposed to commercial sources of income. A minority of less than 6% held the opposite view, believing that Chancery Lane was “too reliant on commercial income”.
However, opinions were more divided on the balance of spending between the Law Society and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). A slender majority of 56% described the split as unreasonable.
In their more detailed comments, solicitors accused the SRA of wasting money, suggested it “reduce its personnel” and claimed it was “not fulfilling its purpose”. Two suggested the regulator should save money by adopting a “polluter pays” principle.
Other solicitors accused the Law Society of doing a “terribly poor lobbying job”, or using the PC fee to fund “excessively political campaigns”. However, several solicitors thought the society should spend more money supporting solicitors and “act more like a trade union”.
Looking to the future, and to the 2015-16 budget, 80% of solicitors said the PC fee should be cut further.
A number of solicitors suggested discounts for certain kinds of practitioner – those doing legal aid work, sole practitioners and those working in the public sector.
Other suggestions for discounts included for solicitors who did not work the full year, for example because of maternity care or other caring responsibilities.
Several in-house lawyers commented that their fee should be “negligible”, given the service they received, with two noting that local authorities no longer paid for PCs.
The survey was carried out in advance of the fee cut being approved by the Law Society’s council. The society’s research team stressed that the responses received to the survey were “indicative only” and originated from a “self-selecting sample” of practitioners.